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My Pet Can't Stand & Keeps Falling - Possible Causes & What to Do

If your cat or dog has been stumbling, staggering, or falling over, it could indicate a serious underlying medical issue. The cause could be anything from poisoning, injury, infection, or stroke. Our vets in Clarksville recommend that you immediately take your furry friend to an animal hospital if you notice any of these symptoms. They can explain why seeking medical attention and providing the necessary treatment to help your pet recover is important.

Why is my cat or dog staggering?

If your dog or cat is having difficulty standing up or keeps falling over, it could be a sign of a serious health problem. There could be several underlying causes which we will discuss in this post. In this situation, seeking immediate emergency medical care for your pet is essential. We recommend taking them to a veterinary hospital right away.


Cats and dogs have three types of ataxia: cerebellar, vestibular, and sensory. Associated with sensory dysfunction in the nervous system, ataxia can lead to loss of coordination in the head, limbs, or back end. Many diseases can cause this health problem. 

Damage to the cerebellum causes cerebellar ataxia, while compression of the spinal cord due to a bulging intervertebral disc or tumor causes sensory ataxia. Issues with the brain stem or inner ear cause vestibular ataxia. 

Common symptoms of ataxia in cats and dogs include abnormal walking, weakness, swaying, and tremors in the head and body. Your pet may also tilt its head, experience a lack of appetite, or have difficulty hearing. Additionally, changes in behavior or lethargy are potential symptoms. Along with these symptoms, pets may stagger, stumble, and fall over. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Cats with sudden onset ataxia often experience significant nausea or roll or fall to one side due to feeling so shaky on their feet. Those with chronic ataxia will typically adjust over time and are less likely to feel nauseated. 

Brain Inflammation 

Encephalitis can cause symptoms such as staggering or falling over, depression, decreased consciousness, fever, seizures, and paralysis. Fungal infections, tick-borne diseases, or parasites can cause it.

Brain Tumor

As pets grow older, they may become more vulnerable to brain tumors. This condition can cause them to lose balance, stumble, or stagger. The signs of a brain tumor vary depending on its location. Still, they may include pain, seizures, tremors, head tilting, swaying, wide stance, lack of coordination, pacing, changes in behavior or appetite, and flicking of the eye. These symptoms may be particularly noticeable in senior pets.

Ear Infection 

Middle or inner ear infections often cause balance loss in cats and dogs. If your pet has an ear infection, you might also notice symptoms such as eye flicking, walking in circles, scratching near the ear, and head shaking, along with swelling, redness, discharge, and odor in or around the affected ear. 


Inner ear damage, head trauma, and other injuries can cause pets to lose their balance. It can sometimes be challenging to tell if your pet is injured since both cats and dogs tend to mask pain. Change in appetite, slowed reflexes, licking or biting a wounded area, heavy panting, anxiety, and reluctance to lie down or put pressure on the area can all indicate pain. 


While strokes in dogs are fairly uncommon, they can occur. In cats, strokes are most commonly diagnosed in kitties that are around nine years old. They seem to occur less frequently in pets than in people. They can be the result of high blood pressure, hemorrhage, blood clots, rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, migrating worms, head trauma, or other serious disorders.

If your dog is staggering like he is drunk, he may have had a stroke. Stroke symptoms in both dogs and cats can also include circling, unsteadiness while walking, unequal pupil sizes, abnormal eye movements, loss of vision or balance, falling down, head pressing (potentially as a result of a headache), altered mental state, muscle spasms or head tilt.

Common Remedies for Loss of Balance in Pets

If your cat or dog cannot walk or stand properly and exhibits symptoms such as staggering or falling over, it is important to take them to the vet as soon as possible. Our team of experienced veterinarians will be able to diagnose the underlying issue and suggest a suitable treatment option based on the diagnosis.

Treatment options vary widely depending on the diagnosis and may include medications, surgery, a combination of different types of therapies, physical rehabilitation, and more. The recommended course of treatment would depend on the specific condition and the severity of your pet's symptoms.

When to Seek Emergency Care

Any dog or cat that is staggering, stumbling, or falling over requires immediate veterinary attention. The pet may suffer pain and other symptoms, and its life may be in danger. Time may be a critical factor in its survival and prognosis. 

If you are experiencing an emergency with your pet during regular hours, contact your primary vet for more information.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical or behavioral advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

Is your pet experiencing difficulty walking or standing? Contact our veterinarians in Clarksville today to schedule a consultation.

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Sango Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Clarksville companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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